Developers who want to build a commercial wind project in Windham and Grafton say environmental surveys will start soon which will give them a clearer picture of where the turbines might go.
For the past two-and-a-half years Iberdrola Renewables has been collecting wind data from three meteorological towers located on a high plateau that straddles the Grafton-Windham town line.
The data will be used to help the Spanish energy company decide if the site is viable for between 20 to 30 450-foot wind turbines.
During a tour to one of the meteorological towers recently, Project Manager Jenny Briot said the company is almost ready to talk about where they will be conducting environmental surveys.
The surveys will give the company a better idea of where within the vast 5,000-acre tract the wind project would likely be located.
"That's really where we're at right now, is getting ready at the end of October to show the community the layout that we'll study," Briot said. "We're still in the early phase. The typical project probably takes about eight to 10 years, depending when you first time you put a MET tower up until you probably go. So we're still at that first phase of development still, what we call the study and evaluation process."
Two meetings are scheduled for October to provide additional information on where the environmental tests will be done.
Briot said developers will probably know at the end of next year if the site is viable and just how many towers will be built.
Jeremy Turner is managing forester for Meadowsend Timberlands Ltd., the New Hampshire-based company that owns the approximately 5,000-acre Stiles Brook Forest where the wind turbines might be built.
Turner has been talking to the people in the towns of Windham and Grafton about a proposed commercial wind project for more than three years.
He led a group of about two dozen people along rough logging roads up to the remote site in an effort to further educate the community, and make a case for the project.
"Today is just rallying up people that have continued interest in getting in the field and in the woods up on the land and being able to talk to both the landowner and Ibedrola about the project," he said before leading a convoy up to the MET tower."We want people to be able to get updated on the field measurements that are occurring with these MET towers, and just an overall education of the project."
Most of the people who went on the tour lived nearby, in Windham, Grafton and Townshend.
They gathered around the tower on the unseasonably warm afternoon and asked questions about the project.
Briot and Turner were able to answer some of them, but they stressed throughout the presentation that tests were ongoing and that they did not yet if the site is windy enough or where the towers would go, if they were built.
Project engineer Don Hammond said developers are also figuring out where the project infrastructure — such as roads and power lines — would be located.
And with that information, the company will have a better idea of where the turbines will go, and how many turbines the site will allow.
"This is over 5,000 acres here, and you can't do an environmental survey on the entire 5,000 acres in the detail that we need," Hammond said. "And so when Jenny says we're putting together a study layout, that's the layout we're going to study from an environmental perspective, and get into all the evaluations of what's here. The birds. The animals. The plants. The wetlands. The archeological features. Everything within the site. That needs to be evaluated and all those study reports go into the overall project recommendation."
Meetings are being planned for Monday, Oct. 26 in Grafton and Tuesday, Oct. 27 in Windham, with the times and locations still to be announced.
The Grafton Wind Information Committee collected a list of questions from people in town which Iberdrola officials say will also be addressed at the meetings.
According to the project web site, construction of the towers could begin in 2019.